Apple's AirPods Make Me Want More W1 Devices, And That's A Good Thing

Discussion in 'iPhone Accessories' started by cmbstnrctn, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. cmbstnrctn macrumors newbie


    Dec 12, 2016
    I own a pair of Bose QC35's and I love them. I bought them as soon as they arrived here in Singapore and up until yesterday they were the only headphones I have owned and used for the majority of 2016. They sound great, the noise cancelling works a treat and, most importantly, they're wireless. I'm not sure quite when it became important to me to own a pair of wireless headphones, but since taking ownership of my Bose headphones, I've had no desire to move back to a wired headset. What you give up in terms of sound quality, you gain in convenience and in a world where public transport and open-plan offices are the norm, a pair of wireless headphones are a must.


    As much as I love my QC35's, Apple's unveiling of the AirPods (back in September, during the launch of the iPhone 7) piqued my interest for a few reasons. First, I find the QC35's to be a little clunky when I need a quick audio fix. Take, for instance, dialling in to a video conference call from home late at night. Usually I'll make these calls from bed, and whilst the Bose headphones are perfectly comfy, they're too bulky for me to be able to rest my head on the pillow whilst simultaneously watching the video from my laptop. The same applies when I'm on the train for any extended period of time. The limited space, coupled with the fact that I've usually forgotten to take the headphones out of my bag, means I normally end up just spending the journey scrolling through my Twitter feed. I also took the QC35's on their first long-haul flight the other day, and whilst they were amazing to use for watching movies and blocking out the whirr of the aircraft engines, they're impossible to sleep in, particularly when you're using a neck pillow. Finally the Bose QC35's are not great headphone for weekends. Without my laptop bag, carrying around the Bose headphones is cumbersome and they're not exactly the kind of thing you want to leave on a table at a bar.

    However, the most interesting thing to me about the AirPods, is the W1 chip that Apple has implemented to supplement the Bluetooth connection. As so many have pointed out, Bluetooth is a pile of ****. No matter how good the headphones and how well they've been built - and don't get me wrong, the Bose QC35's are extremely well built - they're all let down by the Bluetooth connection driving the wireless technology behind them. For me, that means regularly having problems with the Bose QC35's connecting to my devices, occasional drop outs in connection and a particularly annoying bug that stops the headphones from simultaneously being connected to my company MacBook Air and my iPhone 6s at the same time.


    So, to the AirPods themselves. First off, as has been widely photographed and documented, the buds come in a white plastic 'dental floss' looking case. The dental floss analogy is absolutely perfect here. It's the first thing I thought upon casting my eyes on the battery case and my girlfriend said exactly the same thing when she saw it. I find the size of the case to be perfect, it's small and pretty light and is the kind of thing you can easily pocket without having to worry about it taking up room. Speaking about pocketability, I've already started to notice a few scratches on the case, and my guess is it'll look far less white and glossy as the months and years go on.

    Flipping open the case reveals the pair of AirPods and an indicator light. It's also here where the magic of the W1 chip is revealed. As soon as I'd flipped open the case, my iPhone flashed up a notification asking me if I'd like to connect the AirPods to my device.apP After clicking the connect button, the Pods were paired with my iPhone and ready to use. I checked my MacBook Pro, which is signed in to the same iCloud account as my phone and, sure enough, the Pods were connected there as well. It's pretty clear that the W1 chip in these Pods is a big selling point for Apple and to anyone that's ever had issues with Bluetooth, the chip makes the entire pairing experience seamless - very un-Bluetooth like.


    After pairing the Pods, I took them for a quick test run. Now, I never had issues with Apple's EarPods not sticking in my ears. In fact, I always found them to be comfortable and amongst the best fitting in-ear headphones I've used, so I wasn't really expecting any less from the AirPods. And I was right not to worry; the AirPods fit perfectly. I did a shakey-head-test which, of course, is the most scientific test available to headphone testers to ensure a good fit, and the Pods didn't move at all. Again, my experience with the EarPods was exactly the same but just knowing that the AirPods fit as well as their wired counterparts fills me with hope that it's actually going to be pretty hard to lose these things. Other reviewers have corroborated this, including one who took their AirPods on a gym workout and had no issues with them staying in.

    So far I've found sound quality to be good. Again, I wasn't going in with any expectations that these would be able to compete with my Bose QC35's or even other headphones in their price range, but I've still been pleasantly surprised by the sound that the AirPods put out. I'm no sound nerd but everything sounded clear and the bass response seems good. I always found the EarPods to put out a sound that seemed tinny, and I'm happy to report that the AirPods don't seem to suffer from the same issue.

    I'm yet to make a call using the AirPods so I'll reserve judgement on that until I do, but there's nothing from the early reviews that I've seen that should give me cause for concern. In fact, most reviewers have praised just how good calls sound on the AirPods, so clearly Apple has worked hard on the microphone array here.

    I also love what Apple has done when you take one of the buds out of your ears - first off pausing the audio and then, should you decide to resume whilst still having only one bud in, playing the sound in mono. This has proven to be particularly useful when I need to hear train announcements or, more importantly, when my girlfriend is trying to have a conversation with me.


    Right now my only criticism of the AirPods is of the gesture controls. I've found the double tap to activate Siri gesture to be cumbersome and have had numerous occasions where it's flat out failed to work. Having to pull your phone out of your pocket to check whether Siri has been activated on your AirPods pretty much defeats the purpose of the gesture and I've basically resorted to just using my iPhone to play/pause audio, as well as to increase or decrease the volume. I'd love to see Apple do more with the gesture control on these AirPods and also open the double tap command up to customisation, but perhaps this is something planned for further down the road.


    All-in-all, I've been seriously impressed with Apple's AirPods. They come in a case that's small and light enough that it's the kind of thing you can bring anywhere you go. The W1 chip eliminates most of the Bluetooth annoyances that I've had in using my Bose QC35's and makes pairing with all my devices a dream. And most importantly, the Pods stay put in my ears and produce decent quality sound. Combined with Apple's W1 magic, these should be the go-to headphones for anyone looking to purchase a pair of wireless 'phones that doesn't want to deal with the hassle that most Bluetooth headsets present. They're clearly not aimed at an audiophile looking for a great sounding pair of buds, but then at this price, I don't think that was ever Apple's intention. For many, the convenience of the AirPods is going to be the big selling point and the AirPods are priced competitively enough to make for a compelling case.

    I have just two lingering questions after using the AirPods for the last few days. One - when will we start seeing the W1 chip used in other Apple devices? Because a Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard combo with an integrated W1 chip would be awesome and again would solve the myriad of Bluetooth issues that these devices face. And two: how long before Apple starts bundling its AirPods as standard, with iPhones? As Apple moves its entire product line towards a world without wires, we may not be too many iPhone generations away from having the answer.

    This review was originally published on my blog, Combustion Reaction, on Thursday 22nd December
  2. rockyromero, Dec 21, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016

    rockyromero macrumors 6502


    Jul 11, 2015
    Agreed with your engaging review.

    A couple of thoughts to add:

    • The Airpods are proving to be fairly waterproof & dropproof.
    • The mic can be used for clear audio recording when doing videos, even remotely.
    • The sounds can be controlled by the AW.
    • The pods can be holstered on the inside band of the AW when not in use.

    I also would like to see Apple have a wider use of the W1 chip. Preferably in some upcoming Echo speaker look alike for home controls. The mouse and keyboard work good enough now and has little need for any improvement consideration.

    Bundling Airpods with other products could happen for promos, years from now.

    More importantly would be another wearable that delights us.

  3. cmbstnrctn thread starter macrumors newbie


    Dec 12, 2016
    Thanks. I really think the AirPods are just the start of Apple's plans for the W1 chip and, for sure, it's going to be interesting to see what else they have up their sleeve for it in the future. I can imagine an AI device putting it to good use, but my gut feel is that Apple will soon release a new touchbar-equipped Magic Keyboard that will integrate the W1 chip, alongside an updated W1-enabled Magic Mouse.

    I agree as well that we could start seeing carriers bundling AirPods in with iPhones as part of promos. I guess I'm really interested to know how far off we are from wireless technology being so affordable that Apple is able to replace its EarPods with AirPods in the iPhone box. Interesting point also on a wearable being fitted with the W1 chip - I can certainly envisage a future Apple Watch that makes use of this.

    As I say, I think the AirPods are just the start of a very magical wireless journey that Apple are embarking on, and I'm personally really excited at the thought of being able to cut so many cords!
  4. tekchic macrumors 65816


    Apr 19, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    I haven't seen/heard this anywhere. Do you have a pic? That sounds interesting!
  5. boston04and07 macrumors 65816


    May 13, 2008
    This is exactly what I've been wanting ever since I got my Solo 3's and saw just what the W1 chip is capable of - more devices other than headphones that incorporate the W1 technology. A Magic Keyboard that I can easily switch between my Mac mini, iPad Pro, and iPad mini would be amaaaazing. Also a W1 Beats Pill Plus would be scooped up by me immediately.
  6. bigdog5142 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 13, 2008
    I'm considering selling my Studio Wireless and going with the Solo 3’s just for the W1 chip!
  7. cmbstnrctn thread starter macrumors newbie


    Dec 12, 2016
    Yep, I feel the same. I use a Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse at home and whilst the Bluetooth connection is generally pretty reliable, they can both still suffer from the occasional dropout. I'd love a W1 enabled keyboard and mouse that can switch between my MacOS and Boot Camp installation on my MacBook Pro seamlessly, as well as my company owned MacBook Air. To me that would be worth a hell of a lot more than any potential touchbar addition that Apple is planning.
  8. kramjam macrumors 6502


    Feb 3, 2008
    Great review.. W1 is really impressive. Would be cool to see Apple to open it up to other audio manufacturers.
  9. ericwn, Dec 22, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2016

    ericwn macrumors 68000

    Apr 24, 2016
    I really don't see what the w1 chip would bring to the table. I use both iOS and macOS every day with Bluetooth devices and hardly ever run into any issues at all. What I read here are first world problems blown a bit out of proportion, in my opinion. Makes it easier to justify GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) purchases. ;)
    I must also shake my head when I read comments like somebody complaining that sleeping is hard when wearing a big headphone. (My Apple earbuds are usually not in my ears anymore when I wake up after listening to music when going to bed or having a nap on a plane. So that would be awful to start searching for the pods I guess....)That's really not what these are meant for. They would also suck at a marathon, for sure. Common sense tells us that even before we purchase these things.
    Back to the W1, time will tell how reliable it will be and what Apple makes with it. They seem to have a good start so far, at least for the Apple enthusiast market. Let's hope this flawless pairing will still be flawless in one or two generations of products.

    I'd buy the EarPods equivalent version of the Apple in-ear headphones in a heartbeat. But I'd also need a good, non-Siri, solution to jump to the next song in my playlist. Doing this on the watch or phone is a joke when you're used to the quick controls of the cable remote.
  10. boston04and07 macrumors 65816


    May 13, 2008
    Hmm...just because *you* might not personally see the benefit of a requested feature, it does not mean that such a benefit does not exist. I generally shake my head at these types of comments. ;)

    It's awesome you personally haven't had many issues with Bluetooth connectivity with whichever devices you have, but that doesn't negate the fact that many of us here have said that we do. (Switching my Magic Keyboard between my three devices usually results in me seriously contemplating throwing it out the window, FWIW). Not the worst thing in the world for sure, but why not discuss how these devices could be made better? It's been pretty well established these last few months that the W1 can in fact make it much easier to switch one Bluetooth device between multiple host devices. It also strongly seems to increase connectivity reliability, at least it has for many of us here. (I definitely recommend going back and reading all the many threads on W1 devices that have popped up here these past few months if you haven't already). Anyway, it appears as though a relatively minor enhancement to existing devices could make those devices better for a lot of people - so why bother arguing against that or implying that the intentions of those who want it are dumb? One thing I've never understood is why someone would argue against a requested software/hardware feature just because they personally might not see the value in it when others do. Like, what's the point?

    Also, the vast majority of things that are discussed here could be qualified by some as "first world problems." I also don't see the point of bringing that up in a discussion about how existing devices could be made better by a relatively minor spec bump. That's like...every thread here. :rolleyes:
  11. ericwn macrumors 68000

    Apr 24, 2016
    The point that you are not getting in my stated opinion is that it is not to the major benefit of the users. Who would seriously pitch an Apple Magic whatever, a device build for the sole purpose of being used with just one device at_the_time as a negative example for Bluetooth connectivity and argue that the best solution against it is a proprietary chip that makes the device not better to use except when used with an Apple computer. I like open standards like BT just fine, and connection issues - are more than rare.
    While you are going on here other manufacturers have solved certain issues a long time ago, for example with Bluetooth keyboards and quick pairing capabilities. I use multiple external BT input devices daily and with just a touch of a button they will repair automatically with another computer.
  12. cmbstnrctn thread starter macrumors newbie


    Dec 12, 2016
    I think this is a matter of opinion to be honest. I know I've personally had a lot of problems with Bluetooth in every device I've used, even Apple's Magic Keyboard and Mouse, and connection issues seem to be a recurring theme with Bluetooth.

    Yes, the W1 chip is proprietary but if that's what it takes to make Bluetooth better then I'm all for it. I can't think of too many people that own a Mac (or multiple Macs) who would say no to having a Magic Keyboard and Mouse with a better and more reliable Bluetooth connection and that makes switching amongst their Apple devices easier. Seems like a no-brainer if the cost is the same as the current keyboard/mouse.

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